The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership

Chief Stephanie Price, The CopDoc Podcast Ep 51 - Bluffton, SC Police Department

December 13, 2021 Chief Stephanie Price Season 2 Episode 51
The CopDoc Podcast: Aiming for Excellence in Leadership
Chief Stephanie Price, The CopDoc Podcast Ep 51 - Bluffton, SC Police Department
Show Notes Transcript

Stephanie Police is the Police Chief with the Bluffton, SC Police Department.  She is a veteran in policing for over 20 years.  

A long-term officer and Command Staff member with the Kansas City, MO Police Department.  She left to become Assistant CHiaf with the Savannah, GA Police.  In 2020, Chief Price started as Chief of the Bluffton Police Department.    

Stephanie holds a Bachelor's Degree from Park University and an MBA from Benedictine University.  

We talked about her experience in three different agencies.  She talks of the importance of community and community outreach in policing. 


[00:00:02.630] - Intro

Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The Cop Doc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders and policing communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.

 


[00:00:43.010] - Steve Morreale

Hello again, everybody. This is Steve Morreale coming to you from Boston today. We have the privilege, the honor to talk to chief in Bluffton, South Carolina, a very quickly growing area in South Carolina. And we are talking today to Stephanie Price. Good morning to you, Stephanie.

 


[00:00:58.860] - Stephanie Price

Good morning to you. Good morning, listeners.

 


[00:01:01.350] - Steve Morreale

Thank you very much. So there you are in I hope. Sunny, South Carolina. It's been a little chilly, though, hasn't it?

 


[00:01:07.110] - Stephanie Price

If you call 72 in the morning.

 


[00:01:09.580] - Steve Morreale

I remember listening as often as I've been down there. And you get the notice from the Savannah television stations that it's going to be a cold snap. And it's going to be 50 degrees.

 


[00:01:18.330] - Stephanie Price

50 degrees and protect your pets. They're big about keep your pets inside, make sure they have on coats and we're protecting them. So, yes, absolutely, 50 degrees here is quite chilly. And you start hearing grumbling.

 


[00:01:32.810] - Steve Morreale

You don't understand that. Well, thank you for joining me. One of the things that I took notice of is that you had started as the new chief, the first female chief in Bluffton and came from Savannah. And before that, Kansas City. So what I'd like you to do is to talk about going from Kansas City, putting 20 or more years in making the decision that comes to Savannah as an assistant chief and now being the chief in Bluffton. Clearly, each one of those agencies, while we're all police have different culture, different views, different approaches.

 


[00:02:01.290] - Steve Morreale

Let's talk about how you started and how many years you did there in Kansas City.

 


[00:02:05.080] - Stephanie Price

Okay. So I started in Kansas City, Missouri, in late 90s, and I worked my way up through the ranks and did every job I could. And that was intentional. It was intentional that I experienced every job I could. I really wanted to know the ins and outs of policing and how everything worked from patrol to investigations and then into administration. So I spent quite a few years there decades, and I decided at one point a couple of things actually happened. I got older, shockingly people do that.

 


[00:02:34.450] - Speaker 3

And I decided I didn't like the cold. This is important because I knew I wanted to work somewhere warm. I also thought, Well, you're not living forever either. So you might as well do what you want to do now. And I knew I wanted to be chief of police someday. And I wanted to be chief of police and somewhere where I could really make a difference, naturally. And that was warm. Also important to me. Savannah, Georgia, was hiring for assistant chief of police. I discussed it with my family and my husband.

 


[00:02:58.910] - Stephanie Price

And luckily, I applied for that job, and I got that job. And I was so honored to work at the Savannah Police Department. I love that police Department just so you know, and I worked there for about a year and a half until the chief of police in Bluffton came open. If you have never been to Bluffton, South Carolina, you all need to take a visit. That's all I can say about that, because there is something magical about the town of Bluffton. They actually have a term for it.

 


[00:03:23.140] - Stephanie Price

It's called the Bluffton bubble. And so things are amazing. Here they are live Oaks everywhere. You look at the picture, everybody wants to know, hey, how are you doing? And they stopped to hear the answer. They waved with all five fingers. They are very supportive of law enforcement. And I mean, very supportive of law enforcement. And we are so focused on community policing that it makes me proud to be the chief of police here just about a year ago.

 


[00:03:47.590] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, it's interesting. And that's quite a step for you. But you achieved your goal. I know I spent a lot of time in Bluffton and the saying there, too, is the Bluffton state of mind, which is amazing and that you're on the May River, and it's so beautiful and continually growing. So let's try to help people who are listening, even from outside of the country, to understand Kansas City, Savannah and Bluffton. And some of the differences in terms of size and geographic and such help us understand.

 


[00:04:12.660] - Stephanie Price

Okay. So Kansas City, Missouri Police Department has about 1500 officers. They did when I left. I'm sure maybe not quite that now, and 500 civilians. So they had roughly 2000 people working there without people who come in for work. The population there is about 460,000. It's about 300 and some, and I believe it's 319 square miles.

 


[00:04:33.260] - Steve Morreale

Wow.

 


[00:04:33.610] - Stephanie Price

And so it's a very large area. It's a very large police Department. The thing about Kansas City is that there's something special about them. If you want to categorize it that way, they are not run by the city. They are actually run by the state because of corruption in the board of Police Commissioners run the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department to the stay. Well, one thing I knew personally that if I wanted to go somewhere and be chief of police, I needed experience with mayors and councils and how that type of government runs as Kansas City is the only one left that's run by a Board of Police Commission.

 


[00:05:06.010] - Stephanie Price

I knew that I needed a vast experience in dealing with other things and how other things run. So that's another reason that I wanted to go to another Department. Then I went to Savannah and they had about 600 officers when I left, and not quite 100 civilians, maybe. So that's about how big that Department was. They were Mayor-Council form a government and that is amazing. And I love interacting with them. And let's see 100 miles in and out. They also have populations about 150,000, just so you know, and these are all roundabout figures.

 


[00:05:36.170] - Steve Morreale

No, that's close enough.

 


[00:05:38.870] - Stephanie Price

But I can tell you in Bluffton for sure. We are slotted for 61 officers. We have several civilians, probably about 15 civilians, and that number varies by the way. And we also have 54 sq miles and nd our population is around 27,000 at the last. That's the difference in Departments.

 


[00:05:58.310] - Steve Morreale

Let's talk about education for a moment and how important education is with the Park University. And you went on to Benedictin for an MBA. In essence, were you able to do that while you were employed as a police officer?

 


[00:06:11.290] - Stephanie Price

Yes. And with his family. So before I was a police officer, I did everything I ever wanted to do. Let me explain that, please. I was a hairstylist. And by the way, I feel thankful for being a hairstylist I can talk to just about anybody, about just about anything you have to when they're trapped in your chair there with a Cape. By the way, sometimes capes are more effective than handcuffs and getting people not knowing anymore. I digress. Okay, so I was a hairstylist. I was an EMT.

 


[00:06:40.070] - Stephanie Price

I was a paramedic. I went to LPN school, but then I knew that I wanted to be a police. So that was my education before the formal education of going to College. And, yes, I went to college as an adult and with a family. And I worked through my associates and my bachelor's into the master's degree. I got my master's degree in business, and I cannot tell you how that is helped in city government. Understanding it is a business. Government is a business. So the things I learned there were vastly important in helping.

 


[00:07:08.540] - Steve Morreale

Well, that's interesting, because certainly now you're dealing with budget and personnel and justifying what you need and being able to articulate and being able to come up with a plan or strategic planning. There's an awful lot of plates that you have to keep up in the air as a chief. So by the way, we're talking to Stephanie Price, the chief of police in Bluffton, South Carolina, today. But I'm curious to know as you went from apartment to the Department, this has always been of interest to me.

 


[00:07:34.390] - Steve Morreale

Somebody who stays in one Department, there's nothing wrong with that. They don't have experience from other places that they can transplant and utilize in many cases. I'll bet you have customized your approach with a little from here and a little from here and a little from there. That's my guess. I'm seeing you shake your head. So I think I have agreement there. So when you're in Kansas City and you're rising through the ranks and you're on the street and then you're in a command staff, and now someone is running those meetings and they're having expectations.

 


[00:08:04.070] - Steve Morreale

Either shut up and don't tell me what you think or you've been through that kind of life. Or I want everybody's input. What was your experience? And how did that mold your approach with anything?

 


[00:08:15.660] - Stephanie Price

Nobody is just going to come right out and tell you unless. Well, cops sometimes do, but no one is really going to come right out and tell you, hey, here's what I would do. Here's what we've done in the past. You need to sit, listen and learn. It's just that simple. You can't go and think and you know everything. Now, if the decision needs to be made right away, completely get that completely can do that. However, you need to learn the culture of the place that you're working in.

 


[00:08:38.880] - Stephanie Price

That is so important. It's important not to make vast decisions right away unless they need to be made right. There are some decisions that you're like. This has got to be done right now. And this is how it's going to be. But when and if time allows and it doesn't often. Let's face it, I like to get my folks'input because also, let's face it, I'm not going to be doing the work of it. I'm going to be doing the explaining of it later, right? Or I'm going to be doing the championing of it, right?

 


[00:09:01.830] - Stephanie Price

I'm going to champion their idea and we're going to implement their idea, and I'm going to monitor. But that's exactly what it takes. It takes their input on the idea and their buying. There's really no secret to it. Now, do they like everything I do? I don't think so. But they do understand why we do things because explaining how concepts get to practical application is very important. And they also know one thing, particularly about me. As I'm open to new ideas, we want to try something.

 


[00:09:28.160] - Stephanie Price

It doesn't work, okay. Might cost a little money. All right. No problem. But we really might hit on something amazing. And that's the one thing I really love about Bluffton the town staff here and the Mayor Council and the citizens. They're behind you so greatly that you are allowed to try innovative ideas.

 


[00:09:46.110] - Stephanie Price

Well, one of the things you just said, and one of the things I wrote down was, I love Simon Sinek's work. And one of them is "Start with Why". And very often we seem to be sometimes resistant to say why we're doing something, why? I'm thinking this, and it may very well be that it's something that you heard from the Council that they're looking to have you consider and explaining why sometimes makes it so much easier to sell. And I do a lot of training with Sergeants and I'll say, what pisses you off about your new troops? They're always asking why. And I said, okay, who trained them to ask why it's us? But let me tell you something. When the chief tells you something, or Captain tells you to do something, don't you want to know why? Because doesn't it make it easy to sell? If you understand why? React to that, Stephanie.

 


[00:10:27.570] - Stephanie Price

Well, I want to know why. And I'll tell you where the concept of why was really driven home to me. So when I worked in Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, I had the absolute privilege of working at the regional police Academy there. It's actually run by the police Department, but it's a regional Academy. So a lot of folks go. When we were teaching the recruit, it became quite clear, quite sudden, not just for me as an officer, but for me teaching other folks and learning and guiding their teaching because I was commander there, it became really clear to me they need to know how to put this concept into practical application.

 


[00:10:59.040] - Stephanie Price

But they also need to know how to explain why they are doing what they are doing and plain talk that all folks can understand. They needed to learn how to do this for the community so they can talk to the community about what they're doing. They could talk to their superior officers and their peers about what they were doing and also when they're on the stand. Right. So if you're giving testimony, you have to clearly articulate why you took the actions you did and what you were thinking at the time and that you thought beyond this moment.

 


[00:11:27.880] - Stephanie Price

Now to this global moment of later, I tell the officers here. I tell Sergeants, everyone here with the way our society is going now, when you walk out this door, what you do is not just a reflection on me and your community. You might as well be the chief of police because they have that instant power. Now, with Instagram, Facebook and all the social media platforms are you using?

 


[00:11:51.320] - Steve Morreale

I mean, so many things have changed, and I'll be asking some questions about the societal issues that we deal with. The political issues, actually, with some irony, I'm in the middle of writing a chapter on socio-political impact on policing, so varied. The more I dug into it, the more I realized we worry about homelessness and mental health and suicide, and just goes on and on and on. We get called to so many different things, and a lot of times it's really not our job as a police, but there's nobody else to catch it, especially on a 24/7 shift, because youth and children, family are not on because they don't have money.

 


[00:12:26.240] - Steve Morreale

And that's the big deal. We talk. You can see where this could go. You hear about the funding. I'm sure that that makes you shudder - defund. I need more money to be able to do my job. But I think we have underfunded in this country social services and that we policing have become the dumping ground for issues that should be handled by other people, and partnerships become important. What's your thought about it?

 


[00:12:46.960] - Stephanie Price

That's absolutely true. And we're offering folks no other alternative. You get a call, nine, one, one. Some places have three, one, one or four, one one for other city issues. What if your issue is not a policing issue? What if your issue is not? I've got a crack in the sidewalk issue. It's more personal than that. We've offered folks no other alternative other than nine, one, one or three, one, one or help on their own when help on your own is only so good if you know how to access it.

 


[00:13:12.020] - Stephanie Price

And so we're actually taking steps, like many other departments are. We have started a community health advocate here. It's a program. We're just getting off the ground. It's like a behavioral health unit, like anything else. Because if I got to choose today, I would have a four person team rolling around and it would be a paramedic firefighter. It would be a police officer. It would be a social services person, and it would be a behavioral health person. I mean, if you can roll around in a car with all four of those people, you could solve a lot of things that were going on in society.

 


[00:13:40.710] - Stephanie Price

Is that practical? It depends. I don't know.

 


[00:13:42.990] - Steve Morreale

Well, that's interesting. We've been spending some time. I just had somebody come over and I hosted him from Ireland, and they have never done co-response. They are going to do it. They're starting a pilot. But this co-response is starting to grow, and it sounds like that's where you're moving at first, I have to say, Stephanie, you know, there are some who wear the uniform who'd say I am not riding around with a clinician. They're going to try to psychoanalyze me. That's why you're putting them in the car until they realize just what they bring to the table and that that person can start to speak the language.

 


[00:14:12.440] - Steve Morreale

The police officer can back off unless there's some potential harm and let them handle, let them take it. Let them try to get the people to help, especially in mental health or substance abuse situations. Is that where you're moving?

 


[00:14:24.580] - Stephanie Price

Well, it's not just me. It's law enforcement in general. And we talk here in Bluffton as we talk in law enforcement and as people get used to people being officers, in this case, as officers get used to the idea of behavioral health and behavioral health response, we're not just talking about citizens at this point. I've got a few things that are very important to me with regard to our officers. And one thing that I have talked about and I've talked about since I've been here is the officers mental health and wellness and physical health and wellness.

 


[00:14:53.890] - Stephanie Price

And so they're hearing not just about the behavioral health response for citizens. They're hearing about their own behavioral health, mental health response. Everyone has mental health. There's one person you're guaranteed for the rest of your life to be with and that's you. So if you take care of yourself and you take care of your folks. They'll take better care of their community. And that's how I've always looked at that. And we talk about that a lot here. We talk about officer suicide, we talk about mental health aid, we talk about resilience stress training, lead.

 


[00:15:23.770] - Stephanie Price

We talk about all those things and as they get used to hearing it for themselves. And so they get used to hearing it for the community, because as far as policing response goes, you may go to a domestic violence call, but rarely is the call about. I just wanted to be the person that there's deep seated issues there that are driving that response that you got called to, and we're trying to mitigate those issues.

 


[00:15:45.400] - Steve Morreale

Well, I think you also know having been in policing for a long time myself before I retired, and you, too, that we get called, police get called. Keep saying we because

 


[00:15:55.190] - Stephanie Price

Oh, you're a we.

 


[00:15:55.190] - Steve Morreale

I guess so we get called on to see things that no one else should see and you cannot unsee them. And over and over again on the podcast, we've talked about check-ins and checkups, and I think people have been resistant. Police have been resistant to going for a checkup. There are some that are making it mandatory, and it is not punitive it's to sit down and basically do a feeling dump or how I feel dump just so that I can get it off my chest and continue because we have a tendency.

 


[00:16:22.940] - Steve Morreale

And I'm sure you, too. There are certain things that we put in little boxes that we never confront because you saw a dead body, we saw our murder, we saw a rape, we witnessed these kinds of things. We witnessed somebody drowned, whatever it is, and I couldn't save them or whatever it might be that leaks out at times. And without being able to purge that in a way, I think the cumulative effect can be very damaging to police officers. And again, I have the benefit of seeing you on video and you're shaking your head again. Talk about that.

 


[00:16:50.420] - Stephanie Price

That's absolutely true. And I'll tell you this, I don't know what that event is going to be for that, officer. I don't know. You could be in a homicide unit that gets several Kansas City used to have. I don't know what their homicide rate is now, but let me just guess it's around 150 ish you're in a homicide unit. You're going to homicide after homicide. After homicide. That may or may not affect you. However, you go on a call that has a child that looks like yours, that wife somehow remind you of yours.

 


[00:17:16.760] - Stephanie Price

I don't know how and when the call is going to be. It could be an accident. It could be taking a child away from a parent. It could be anything. I don't know what that is going to be and what's going to stay with you, but what I do know is it will happen. And it is my job to prepare you for that. It's my job to help you recognize that that situation can and will happen. And it's my job to help you have the tools to effectively address that situation or provide the avenues where you can learn to address that situation.

 


[00:17:47.300] - Stephanie Price

And I take that responsibility very seriously. I am very worried about my officers mental health and wellness. It's not uncommon here for if you're having I mean, cops have bad days, right? I may have had a few. I'm just saying, back in the day, cops have bad days. They are humans. They're imperfect humans trying to perfectly police a community of what they expect from them. And so sometimes our cops need a break. And so often here we will give our cops a break. And those days are on me.

 


[00:18:13.820] - Steve Morreale

No kidding. That's great. That's great to hear. So I like what you're saying in terms of behavioral health and paying attention to that and the wellness of officers, which is important. But recruiting and retention, given what's going on today, the noise that's out there, the disparaging thoughts and feelings and not all people but people who accept what they see on television in a 32nd clip as representative of all police in America, in fact, all police in the world, in my estimation, it couldn't be further from the truth.

 


[00:18:41.700] - Steve Morreale

But how do you pay attention to recruiting and retention of officers and keep their head in the game, given everybody who's trying to shit on them?

 


[00:18:50.220] - Stephanie Price

We talk about a lot of things here and recruiting and retention, particularly in South Carolina. I'll just tell you right now, I do love South Carolina, and I love this for the officers. If an officer wants to take their retirement is statewide almost in every agency. So you could, in essence, resign here on Friday, and you start on a Monday, and nothing has happened to your retirement for officers. That is amazing for command staff. That may not be as amazing. Yes, but I wouldn't change it because I want the best for office.

 


[00:19:19.710] - Stephanie Price

Okay. Just saying that. So what that means is you have to set yourself up for something a little bit different than the next person offers and recruiting and retention. We talk about it all the time. We talk about every person who works here is a recruiter. Every action you take is a recruiter because you are what you advertise. So what comes out of your mouth? What actions you do? You are what you're advertising. It is about marketing. It is about business. What are you advertising internally and externally to people?

 


[00:19:47.910] - Stephanie Price

What are you saying about the Bluffton Police Department? What are you saying about being a police officer? One thing that I'm really grateful for, even though we are having problems nationally, and of course, it's a crisis is that the officers that are coming in now really want to help. I know we all said back in the day we wanted to help, but I bet if you really ask us later, we really wanted car chases, catch the bad people and all that. They really want to interact with their community.

 


[00:20:13.030] - Stephanie Price

They want to take the time and get to know people and sit down and talk to them. They want to make it better. They want to talk to kids. They're really community focused. And that's one of the things I love. And the folks that are coming in now, they are more technologically advanced than ever love that, too. They're all willing for change. They're willing to tell you their ideas. They want to be a part of a Department that cares about them.

 


[00:20:38.780] - Steve Morreale

You just raised the issue or the discussion about marketing. I'm not sure that we and policing do a great job of marketing or branding ourselves. I know IACP is starting to move forward, and you have USCB. And one of the things I'll always suggest is why aren't we going to a marketing Department there to have them help us speak to the many good things that we do, because the fact of the matter is that I don't care how big a department is. 10% or 15% of your work is arresting, everything else is everything else.

 


[00:21:07.440] - Steve Morreale

It's about shaking hands and getting to know people and walking the talk and being with trying to develop relationships, because policing is all about relationships when it's done right. So social media. Are you using social media to your job?

 


[00:21:19.810] - Stephanie Price

That is one of our biggest platforms and we really craft our message. Talking about marketing. We sit down. We have meetings about, well, what makes Bluston special? Why do you want to be a Bluffton police officer? Well, I'll tell you why. And it's super simple. As a cop, I'll tell you in this day and age, let them support and appreciate their cop. We talk about come to a community who supports the police when you're not getting supported in your community and you've only wanted to ever serve, why wouldn't you come to a community that supports the police officers?

 


[00:21:49.160] - Stephanie Price

There are people here that stop and give officers gift card just because they're officers. It is an outpouring. At times it's almost overwhelming. I know one day I went out and a lady prayed for me and six other people. Not the same time I stopped and said thank you for your service. They appreciate the service and sacrifice that you're willing to make. And being a public service.

 


[00:22:08.290] - Steve Morreale

Isn't that amazing.

 


[00:22:09.150] - Steve Morreale

But every place is different. So the question I have. So how did you transition from Missouri to Georgia to just over the river to come to South Carolina? Because each jurisdiction has differences, different approaches, different, mores different values, different laws, more conservative, more Liberal, whatever it is, you've had to make some transition. Talk about that.

 


[00:22:31.640] - Stephanie Price

Well, I did talk about how it was really important for me to experience all the different areas of the police Department has to offer. It's nearly the same thing. When you're going from agency to agency, you have to sit back, take a look at the culture. It's kind of like a detective in reverse. What are you detecting that's important to the Council, the citizen and everyone else, the internal people, your folks. And by the way, of course, naturally, what they say is important may not be what's actually important.

 


[00:22:59.480] - Stephanie Price

So you have to listen a little bit better. Use those active listening skills. You have to ask good questions without being offensive. Nobody really likes to say they complain about wherever you go, beating cars, drug houses and trash. Nobody's going to give you the list like that. And they're not going to give you the list like that. You mentioned it earlier unless you cultivate and create relationships with people so they feel comfortable enough talking.

 


[00:23:22.520] - Steve Morreale

Well, approachability is really important, and that's important. You're irritating me a little bit in a nice way. And I say that I'm smiling. No, no, don't take it the wrong way. I'm writing things and within a millisecond, you're saying exactly what I wrote when I was listening and questions. So no, you're right on. You're right. You're not irritating. But I have to say, do you find value in leading through questions? Because one of the things I want to draw from you is talk me through your meetings.

 


[00:23:47.180] - Steve Morreale

Talk me through your approach to meetings. Talk me through setting the expectations of your command staff that we don't want you to sit here silent. I want your input. I want you to ask your troops for input, and then I want you to bring it back to me. Don't hide it. Is that something you're doing? And is it working?

 


[00:24:05.320] - Stephanie Price

Yes. They are getting more and more comfortable every day with telling me stuff. Leave me. I know, because any time I have an appointment now, I have to start out a good 30 minutes early to make it out of wherever I am because they all want to talk. I'm only interested when I got something to do. By the way, anyway, here's what I do a lot. I am the police chief today. I'm not the police chief in the future. My time is now. It is not how many other years from now, but I have an obligation and a duty and I want to, by the way, to help them prepare for their future as the police.

 


[00:24:34.740] - Stephanie Price

So a lot of times what I do every time what I do is I ask them, what would you do if you were me or why did you do that? And did you think about this? And also, what am I not thinking about? What don't I know that you want to tell me? And sometimes they do sit there in silence. Then sometimes I sit there and look at them. It takes a lot. But then after a while, because I'm like, you're going to have to do this.

 


[00:24:56.200] - Stephanie Price

If you want me to make the decision, I certainly will. But if you let me make that decision all on my own, and by the way, I have no problem with that. But then you're going to have to do what I say and you're going to have to do it. How I say it. I'm going to need your input now. So later on, it's better for you. You can make decisions and drive your own future. You can make decisions and drive your own work. Help me help you do that?

 


[00:25:16.530] - Stephanie Price

I ask them a lot of times, too. I just asked somebody yesterday. I said, okay, you've done. X. What would you do if you're me his response. I hate when you do this to me.

 


[00:25:25.430] - Steve Morreale

But they must be starting to get used to that.

 


[00:25:27.310] - Stephanie Price

Do you really? He's like, no, because I knew you were going to say it. I have the answer.

 


[00:25:31.670] - Steve Morreale

I just want to interrupt by saying that we're talking to Stephanie Price, who is the chief of police in Bluffon, South Carolina, for the last. How long has it been? A year and a half?

 


[00:25:39.000] - Stephanie Price

Yes, it's been about a year. A little bit over.

 


[00:25:40.630] - Steve Morreale

Okay, good. So I like that. So how often are you having command staff meetings?

 


[00:25:44.290] - Stephanie Price

We have command staff meetings every week, formal command staff meetings. But I talk to them all the time. You can't wait for a meeting when you're collaborating. And let's face it, I may get hit by a bus. So I want folks to know what we're thinking. If we're all on the same page where our direction is going, I set out the expectations and goals for them, and we always strive to make the decisions with those goals in mind, the expectations of policing are given. For me, the goals and all that is worked on with the city Council and the town manager and senior staff. What does Bluffton expect of their police officers? We send out community surveys, we take internal surveys, so we do all of that to make sure that the bus is driving in the right direction, with the right thoughts, with the right expectations, with the right goals. And everybody knows what page.

 


[00:26:30.160] - Steve Morreale

Let me continue for a couple of minutes about sentimental events. George Floyd, January 6 It goes on and on. The Taser incident where somebody used a gun instead of a Taser. How do you, as a chief, have conversations with your staff to talk about those things to try to anticipate and avoid those from happening. It blocks.

 


[00:26:50.770] - Stephanie Price

Well, we have critical conversations, quite frankly, and we talk about the circumstances surrounding it. We watch videos, we discuss case law we talk about. Well, what would you do? What do you think that they were thinking at that time, and most importantly, what can we do better? What can we do better? As not just left in police officers, but as law enforcement. What can we do better for law enforcement? Because the truth of the matter is this. And I don't know why we don't talk about this more.

 


[00:27:14.660] - Stephanie Price

No police officer wants a bad police officer working with them, no one, no one. Now and again. You do get police officers that run the Gray line, and they don't want them working there, either. They simply don't. The second truth that we never talk about is we're willing to die for strangers. When you go to target and you get the employees together in a rally and ask them how many y'all are willing to die for strangers. My guess is not very many of them would raise their hand.

 


[00:27:39.300] - Stephanie Price

You go to a police Department, a police function, a police meeting and say, how many y'all are willing to die for stranger? Every single hand goes up and it goes up, like immediately, because that's what we signed up. We get to serve people. It is a privilege. And when that privilege is tarnished, that is when the officers don't like it either. So I'll say that officers don't want bad officers working, either. I recently read something from the National Justice Institute, and it was talking about policing such a tight knit group that really it is more incumbent every day on us to police ourselves.

 


[00:28:12.470] - Stephanie Price

And that's exactly what we have to do. Try to do, talk about accountability and talk about why accountability is important and what it actually means to the officers I talked to them about. Why do you think county. That's a big word. Accountability is a big word. It can mean so many different things. Accountability. And I tell them this a lot. And there's been officers charged all over the country. We know that. But if you ever talk to any of those officers that are charged with any sorts of crimes while they're on duty, sometimes what they say is, I was doing this and nobody said anything.

 


[00:28:43.800] - Stephanie Price

Nobody stopped me and nobody helped me. And nobody was telling me, no,

 


[00:28:47.480] - Steve Morreale

Nobody cared.

 


[00:28:48.250] - Stephanie Price

Why not?

 


[00:28:49.160] - Steve Morreale

Right. It seemed to be almost accepted practice, at least in their minds.

 


[00:28:52.270] - Stephanie Price

In their mind, whether it was or not.

 


[00:28:53.900] - Steve Morreale

Right.

 


[00:28:54.100] - Stephanie Price

But I'll tell you, one of the hardest things as a police officer, you can do is look at your buddy and say, Knock it off.

 


[00:28:59.200] - Steve Morreale

Yeah, well, that's the duty to intervene, Stephanie right.

 


[00:29:01.420] - Stephanie Price

It's absolutely the duty to intervene. But why is duty to intervene? Again, a great phrase. Everybody loves saying, Why is that important to the average officer? Because if you can go to someone's house and take their children away, which is supposed to be the most important thing in the world to them. But you cannot look at your partner and go, I don't think so. Not like that. We don't do it like that. That's where the problem is.

 


[00:29:22.530] - Steve Morreale

You were running the training Academy and one of the things that I say quite a bit is, look, when we're making an arrest and you're maybe the second or third person in at that arrest scene and the person who gets wound up, maybe he got kicked in the hootsies or got punched in the face or somebody bit them. There's emotion. We're supposed to control our emotion, but it's hard to do that. And that's when sometimes you almost have to tap out and say, Stephanie, I've got this.

 


[00:29:44.180] - Steve Morreale

You're all pissed off. I'll do it. I'll handcuff him and then I'll take him away, and then you can settle down. It's too bad we don't do more of that. But it's something again. It sounds like you talk about that regularly about how can we improve the way we control our emotions, the way we handle arrests.

 


[00:29:59.450] - Stephanie Price

That takes practice, right? It takes practice to intervene. It takes practice to intervene just like it does with handgun retention. Just like when you have to have a culture of making that accept. It's like mental health and wellness. You have to have a culture of making that and to tell them why. Let me ask you a question that I don't expect an answer to. Has anyone ever intervened on your behalf in any sort of policing situation? Has anyone ever intervened on your behalf? I'll tell you for me, the answer is yes, they have.

 


[00:30:25.460] - Stephanie Price

It was a long time ago, although I'll tell you, they still do it to this day. They don't let me walk out and say and do stuff that they think is not going to go over. Well, right. They let me know what's going on. It's the same thing when you're two officers in a police car, officers on a call, you have a duty and obligation to your partner to help them, just like you have to help the citizen. And I think that needs a voice. And I think we need to talk about that more.

 


[00:30:48.500] - Steve Morreale

Okay, so a few more minutes. I don't want to tie you up for too long, but there's a few other things that come to mind that I would love to discuss. And one of them is how you drive that conversation. I will say that one of the things that I do next week, I'll be training about 30 sergeants from New England. And one of the things I'll be talking about is what's important to you. What's troubling you, who writes the agenda and when you write an agenda for your staff meeting, I'm sure there's some cyclical items there or regular items to go through.

 


[00:31:15.320] - Steve Morreale

If you want to improve communication, why don't you put the word communication down? If you want to improve intervention, just put that down and see where it leads. How do you drive that conversation? What's on your list to talk about? That's my question. In other words, what are you still trying to drive through the organization, get them to realize with you how to improve.

 


[00:31:36.650] - Stephanie Price

I don't know how long I am still trying to get them to realize as it has been with policing forever. Communication is very important. And also all the officers that are commanders are still officers. They're still officers. We've actually started a program here to drive communications internally externally. It's really easy. And one of the things that we talk about is our command level officers meet up with patrol officers and they go into businesses and they talk to them in a non enforcement way. It improves communication internally and externally, and hopefully they're exchanging ideas.

 


[00:32:13.460] - Stephanie Price

The ideas do come from that. I know, because they'll bring them to senior staff and how I decide my agenda is this we talk about what we have done, what's coming up. We also talk about something important, and that is what decisions are we not making that we could be making now, what decisions do we not want to confront that we see coming? And how are we going to mitigate those decisions? We talk about the common themes within the police Department as well. For us, it is retention, naturally, is a common theme in our police Department. Communication between and we're middle management, communications, middle management into the officers.

 


[00:32:48.080] - Stephanie Price

And we're constantly trying to improve that. It's not top the middle management that's pretty much taken care of. And it's not officers to Sergeant that pretty much taken care of. There's a communication bottleneck in between, and we're doing several things to address that. And still, every police Department I ever been in is communication. But here's another fact with that, I think sometimes the officers want to know everything I know. I'm trying to get them to understand it's a privilege not to know everything I know. Although you go out there with the chief of police badges on you and you could be me.

 


[00:33:19.800] - Stephanie Price

I want you to know that there are certain things that are too heavy of a burden that I need you to focus on your job while looking out for the global you. But knowing every single detail is something that you can find out as you go up the ring.

 


[00:33:34.640] - Steve Morreale

I got you.  What is on your to do list in terms of improving? I know, but improving the Department, it seems to me I want to ask about women in law enforcement in a minute. But what's on your to do list?

 


[00:33:45.000] - Stephanie Price

So coming up for me on to the to do list is two things. Actually, USCB got a hold of us for a grant for Resiliency, and I haven't heard yet about that. And so I really don't care about the grant other than I think it's amazing, and I hope they get it. But I do like the work to be done. So really, it's developing a research partnership with USCB and two facets, actually, three, the marketing, the communication, and also with resiliency and mental health.

 


[00:34:10.710] - Steve Morreale

Let's talk about that. What does that mean to you? How do you see that evolving? What resiliency means to the Bluffton Police Department.

 


[00:34:17.420] - Stephanie Price

So you want to know about resiliency what that means to me? That means to me. You recognize a situation has affected you. You have the tools available to you to effectively deal with is not really the right word, but to address the situation. I also want you to recognize that it's not just okay. I got the tools, and now I'm better. It's a loop. It could go like this. You could be better now and then it might hit you. Five minutes later, the Rutgerman Foundation does an amazing study, and it says that in a law enforcement officer's career, by the time they're done, you will have seen 187 incidents of trauma.

 


[00:34:54.920] - Stephanie Price

They also said in that study that 35% of us walk around with PTSD. 35%. So every third person that you see is in some form or fashion of PTSD. If you have 35% of kids failing in a class, wouldn't you do something? Wouldn't it be something you got to give on something, right. And so our something is to make those tools available to you. Our something is to check on you later, right. And not just later, but later.

 


[00:35:24.320] - Steve Morreale

Not one and done is a horrible way, right.

 


[00:35:26.560] - Stephanie Price

And we can't forget the family also normalizing mental health. Again, you're the only person you're never going to get away from for the rest of your life. If you can't have healthy conversations in your own head, how will you have healthy conversations outside of there?

 


[00:35:40.440] - Steve Morreale

I very much like what I'm hearing. And one of the things I want to ask about so many things. Stephanie, how do you use data? How do you rely on data to make evidence-based decisions, which is where so many agencies are moving?

 


[00:35:52.630] - Stephanie Price

Oh, absolutely. So we gather the data, and then we try to define we use the goals and strategies of the Department, the goals and strategies of the Council and the community. And we utilize that data, whatever it may be. And I'll tell you a good example here in a minute. But whatever that may be to directly affect the concerns of the community here in Bluffton, we have a lot of folks who are retirees. We have a lot of folks who are permanent residents who, for one reason or another, they're out all the time.

 


[00:36:20.980] - Stephanie Price

And we have a lot of accidents here. And so we pulled the data on the accidents. We talked to citizens, and they think speeding and careless driving, reckless driving, distracted driving is an issue here. And we created a traffic unit. I'll tell you a secret about our traffic unit, which, by the way, makes me really proud. I don't know if it makes other people proud, but three quarters of our traffic stops, our results in warning 75% warning.

 


[00:36:43.970] - Steve Morreale

Think about that. So we're not looking to make enemies, looking to make friends. And if you can give a warning for corrective action. You're not pissing people off. You're not tying up the courts, and you're still doing something quite positive for the community.

 


[00:36:55.290] - Speaker 3

Absolutely. And we also use a varied approach to that. We don't just use our traffic unit. We talk about it on the radio, we design, we participate in distracted driving campaigns, our SROs talk about it in the school. So really, it's a multi- level approach to the problems that exist within Bluffton. We have too many accidents. Still, yes.

 


[00:37:15.220] - Steve Morreale

Well, the population is growing and people are passing through to get to Hilton Head or to go over to Savannah. So, I mean, you're kind of right in the middle. But, Stephanie, what you just said a second ago is one of the reasons I reached out to you for you the first time. To be perfectly honest, I was driving into Hilton Head, and I'm listening to the radio and there's Stephanie talking about whatever the hell - the Buffton Police and what it was about. So messaging becomes very important.

 


[00:37:36.480] - Stephanie Price

It does. It becomes very important. Why does marketing work? Why do we all have straight white teeth? It's because marketing work back in the day for toothpaste stats right here, and they need to hear. And they need to have that communication to understand where you're going with the community and where you're going within the police Department.

 


[00:37:54.480] - Steve Morreale

Very positive messages. So I want to talk about women in law enforcement. Clearly, there's not a lot of people who are police Chiefs at this point in time. You know that there's a 30 by 30 initiative coming up where there's an attempt to move policing from 13% women in policing to 30 by 2030. And I certainly support it. Remember, I started back in 75. I know that that ages me, but in 75, it was the first time women were allowed to be MPs in the army. And I was the first to experience that.

 


[00:38:21.330] - Steve Morreale

And yet when I walk into a room with police sergeants or police commanders for training, and I see no women in there, I say, why are there no women here right now? It becomes important. I think the balance, in my own opinion, and the father of three daughters. But the value of having women in law enforcement in what has been a male dominated profession is underrated. I'm sure you started back in the 90s. You faced your own demons. You faced your own issues. And yet you have succeeded.

 


[00:38:52.580] - Stephanie Price

And I'm sure you helped others talk about that and how important it is to have a diverse agency.

 


[00:38:58.940] - Stephanie Price

Yeah, I have faced issues along the way. I don't think that there is, but the males have faced issues, too. They've just been different. Our issues in females and law enforcement. I know that they have many, but some of our issues are they don't always make women's clothing women. They do now. It's way better than it used to be. But imagine coming to work and they give you a man's vet or a man's trousers or whatever. Have you? Those days are gone. We have women's sizes for things made to fit us.

 


[00:39:28.200] - Stephanie Price

Very nice, particularly when it's not comfortable, right? You know, as well as anybody else does, law enforcement is not built for it's getting better. And I also think the culture of law enforcement is getting more accepted. I think about these kinds of things all the time. We are now in the couple of generations past, two person working household, where a couple of generations past that. So some of our folks are used to seeing their mothers, sisters, daughters go to work and working full time. But it really wasn't that long ago, aka, just six months ago that my daughter's friend, she's 14, told her her mom couldn't be chief of police because she is a female.

 


[00:40:03.890] - Stephanie Price

So it's various attitudes and things like that. If we want to reflect our community, our communities, almost 51% women, we have a duty and an obligation to actually help those who have the proclivity to serve their community, help them out. So we really need to encourage you wouldn't believe the number of women that come up to me and say, I always wanted to do that. But I just didn't. Why not? They just didn't get the chance. Well, sometimes you have to make your own chance, okay?

 


[00:40:30.680] - Stephanie Price

You have to make your own destiny and make your own future. I became a police officer because I wanted to serve and I thought I could do it. I knew I could. I knew I could make tough decisions. But some of the toughest decisions you ever have to make are the decision to sit and listen instead of talk and communication. It seems that at times females have a way of communicating that folks find acceptable.

 


[00:40:51.300] - Steve Morreale

Oh, stop it. (laughs) No, I agree.

 


[00:40:56.120] - Stephanie Price

But you learn to deal with it and you navigate three. I have noticed that we've received an increase in females applying for the police Department here. And I think really, it's about the way you treat your employees.

 


[00:41:07.770] - Steve Morreale

And believe me, people can see that fairly quickly. So thank you. So before we leave, I have the final question. And then you'll have the final word. If you had to talk with somebody who is famous or somebody who you respected, maybe who has passed, who would you sit down with to pick their brain to help you now?

 


[00:41:26.580] - Stephanie Price

Abraham Lincoln.

 


[00:41:27.530] - Steve Morreale

Why?

 


[00:41:28.000] - Stephanie Price

I would love to know how he overcame his early failure and to really become the President of the United States. I'd love to know. What are the similarities now to then are he was in a country divided, obviously, for lots of reasons. It seems to me at times we're like that now. They were talking about abortion rights the other day and trying to get that back to the States instead of a federal decision. Have we gained have we really come forward? There's so many similarities. I would love to hear his thoughts on that.

 


[00:41:57.800] - Stephanie Price

I'd like to tell him about how things are going now and really get his ideas on that. But there's so many people I'd love to talk to. I'd like to talk to Harriet Hubman. I mean, really, that would be amazing to talk about how she overcame everything that she overcame, including her physical disabilities, too. And I'd also like to tell her they just built a Museum to you. Do you know that anyway, I would love to hear about the trials and tribulations. I'd love to hear about her values that were important to her, how dangerous it was and how she really had the fortitude to help those who thought that they couldn't help themselves and really guide them to freedom.

 


[00:42:33.120] - Steve Morreale

That's interesting. Those are two very good historical personalities. So the last thing I would ask you to do, and thank you. We've been talking to Stephanie Price, who is the chief of police now in Bluffton, South Carolina. Sell policing, sell policing today. Why would anybody want to get into this profession, given all of the bad marketing and all of the bad news reports there are.

 


[00:42:55.510] - Stephanie Price

Okay, this one is easy and P.S., it's funny that you asked me. I was actually asking me about myself that the other day. Like, Can you really still ask people to be cops and be okay with it the way things are going now? This is a conversation I had in my own head. And my thought was, yes, I can. And here's why I'm going to take you back to a few weeks ago. And we actually swore an officer in one of our command staff was sitting there.

 


[00:43:16.860] - Stephanie Price

And after the swearing in, everybody left. It was the commander, and it was a brand new officer. And his first words at his mouth were, Let me tell you what, you've got an awesome responsibility. But also, let me tell you this. There's no more fun career in the world. I have two rules. When you work here in Bluffton, I usually keep this internal. I don't really talk about it outside, but we have two rules here. Super easy to remember. You have to work hard, and you also have to have a good time.

 


[00:43:39.310] - Stephanie Price

If you can manage to do both of those things, you have one policing. Humans are funny, okay? It's just as simple. They do some things that your eyes will never believe. You will get to experience things that no one else in the world will experience as a police officer. You have the best door. You also have a great burden. But let me tell you, those doors, the camaraderie just really being with the people that you work with. You'll think about it for years. You're not going to get that from working at Walmart.

 


[00:44:10.290] - Stephanie Price

You're not going to get that at Amazon. You're not going to get that kind of can do team making a difference and yet still having a good time that you are anywhere else. I know that I can see you smile.

 


[00:44:20.770] - Steve Morreale

You're thinking, oh, my God. Well, you know what I'm thinking is we all have a tendency. We can all tell great stories, and sometimes we embellish a little bit. But who cares? Who cares? Right? Well, listen, Stephanie, thank you a million thanks. I wish you the best of luck in what you're doing. As you continue with refining and revising the work that you do in Bluffton, growing the Department and helping everybody within grow and be productive. I thank you so much.

 


[00:44:49.140] - Stephanie Price

Thank you so much for allowing me to have the time with you today. I really appreciate it. And I would ask your listening audience, let's show each other some Grace. Let's give each other a break, including yourself. Let's just be a little bit easy run. They may need it right now.

 


[00:45:02.710] - Steve Morreale

That's great. Well, that finishes another episode. We're talking with Stephanie Price, the new police chief, a year left in South Carolina. If you've not been, take a drive down there. It's beautiful. Right near Hilton Head, and you will find fairly quickly that you'll be in a Bluffton state of mind. Stand by and we'll see you again for another episode.

 


[00:45:21.610] - Steve Morreale

Hey, everybody, a few things before you leave first. Thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the US but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues and practitioners listening. We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia. We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at [email protected] Com. Check out our website at CopDocPodcast.com. Please take the time to share a podcast with a friend. If you find value in the discussions. We've had so many amazing guests and more to come who have shared their wisdom, their thoughts, their viewpoints, and their innovative ideas. Most importantly, a huge thank you to those of you who show up for work in policing every day, not knowing the kinds of calls that you'll be sent on or the kinds of situations you'll find yourself in. You risk your lives for people many of whom you don't know.

 


[00:46:16.340] - Steve Morreale

And for that, we owe you a debt of gratitude. A big thanks. Hope you stay safe, healthy, and look forward to hearing from you and hope you'll continue to listen to upcoming episodes of the copdoc podcast.

 


[00:46:28.850] - Outro 

Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar  from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.